Working in Washington DC during the presidential primary campaigns, I was intrigued by the strong libertarian movement in American politics, and by their ability to shape the debate. In comparison, our acceptance of the strangling bureaucracy of the UK – imposed by local government, Whitehall and the Brussels – seemed spineless. Yet since returning, I’ve observed that the consensus in this country also seems to be that the individual can no longer have his voice ignored. The ‘grassroots’ are starting to fight back.
There is more than a grain of truth in the statement that people are increasingly noticing the heavy-handedness of this Government. The newspapers are full of stories of excessive interference – from councils inserting ‘spy cameras’ in their resident’s dustbins to the misuse of human rights legislation. To list the many attacks on our civil liberties – from detention without charge, ID cards and a DNA database containing innocent people – would not add anything new to the debate dominating this week.
The arrest of Damian Green MP has prompted simmering resentment to resurface. It is not only our politicians who are horrified by the way New Labour has run Whitehall, sidelined Parliament, and micro-managed local government. As the mass of coverage in the tabloid, broadsheet, and new media shows, this is a resentment shared by those in Wigan as well as Westminster.
When David Davis resigned to fight a by-election on civil liberties,
it is arguable that his gamble paid off. The British public were once
again engaged with the so-called political class. In an age where
grassroots activism is all but dead – political parties in the UK have
fewer members than ever before, and political apathy results in
ever-lower election turnouts – here was at last an outlet for protest
against the overarching reach of the State. Despite his perceived
popularity, Davis could not have garnered such national support for an
issue of less importance. Whilst the slogan ‘Campaign for Freedom’ may
have seemed an embellishment to some, people are correctly concerned
about the erosion of their fundamental rights.
Why do I link this encroachment to the EU? Barroso’s timely
comments, that “the people that matter” in the UK are considering a
move to the Euro, provides a clue. The arrogance of the EU ruling class
is epitomised by this statement. It is the same self-belief which
resuscitated a Constitution rejected by voters in France and Holland.
The relentless numerous statements from EU officials that Ireland could
be ‘educated’ to vote in the ‘correct’ way on the Lisbon Treaty ‘next
time’, is as good as case study as we need. This dogmatic pursuit of EU
integration is blind to the desires and needs of Europe’s citizens.
In the United States, an extremely strong libertarian movement
campaigns relentlessly against federal interference. Given our size and
previously unthreatened sovereignty, there has been no such tradition
in the UK. The cumulative events of 2008 however, might prove a turning
point in our battle to regain individual liberties from the tentacles
of the encroaching EU.